Last Thursday at the University of Texas, 76 college pastors from 35 different campus ministries met to discuss the “state of the campus.” This was the 12th annual gathering where we discuss the Longhorn Chronicles, our annual “spiritual map.” We have roundtable discussions, share testimonies, and consider next steps on our campus-reaching effort. Bottom line: the meetings is meant to help us annually assess our “success.”
Success is a tricky word when it comes to ministry because success is ultimately measured by our faithfulness to God, not the results of what we can tangibly measure. The results are up to God.
Still, there are metrics worth evaluating. We cannot measure the success of any single ministry in God’s eyes, but we can try to measure what God (or the enemy for that matter) is doing collectively on campus. In fact, until the whole Body unites in humble conversations like these, it is nearly impossible to measure what God is doing overall.
Here are two of the measurements of success that we find most important. One we call “Growth” (the percentage of UT students involved in campus ministry) and the other we call “Closure” (the number of student groups with a missional community among them).
Growth: Percentage of Students Involved Campus Ministry
In 2001, 5.5% of UT students were involved in our campus ministries. Last year 11.5% were involved in campus ministry. The Body of Christ has nearly doubled over the last eleven years! Praise the Lord.
In an campus environment, where about 8000 new students arrive each year, it is impossible to state for certain why there has been an increase. Perhaps God is moving in youth groups in Texas, so more and more Christian kids are coming to UT. It would also be fair to say that the partnership between ministries, the 200 missional communities, and the 80-100 hours a week of prayer in the Campus House of Prayer are part of the dramatic change.
The fact is that we’re seeing a slow-growing but remarkable increase in the percentage of UT students involved in campus ministries. Because all of the ministries are contributing data, we know it is not merely transfer growth between ministries. This is real growth.
Closure: Number of “People Groups” on Campus Being Reached
When ministry leaders at the University of Texas began praying together back in 1997, we began to talk about how to become a “go-to” church instead of a “come-to” church. We started dreaming about measuring our success not just by “growth” but by “closure.” We learned these terms by reading Jack Dennison’s book City Reaching.
In 2004 we had 20 missional communities embedded within specific people groups on campus. This last year we had 159. To be honest, that’s down from 218 in 2010 and 211 in 2011. That means we’re on a downward trend for the second year in a row. After years of expansion in the missional community movement, we’re now seeing a decline.
We estimate that there are about 500 specific people groups at the University of Texas. These include every dorm floor, cooperative student housing, student populated apartment complexes, every department, every major, every ethnic student organization, every nationality of international students, every sports team, every greek organization, every registered student organization, etc.
Some of the decline can certainly be attributed to changes in campus ministry staff who were part of “Renovate UT”, the partnership of ministries working together on the missional community movement. Thankfully, many of the new campus pastors have reengaged in Renovate UT, and we’re already seeing new missional communities get off the ground this year.
May this be there year we turn the tide and see more of the campus reached with the gospel of Jesus that changes lives!
Justin Christopher is Campus Renewal Ministries’s National Campus Director and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.